Major advertisers responsible for 80%-90% of kids-TV spending have finalized their budgets and submitted them to networks to begin negotiations. Turner's Cartoon Network has closed a few deals, and a spokesman for Nickelodeon expects to close “a significant amount of business shortly,” certainly by this week.
Volume in the kids upfront—in which advertisers lock up prices for the next season—is expected to be softer than last year's $900 million and a few weeks behind last year's schedule. Contributing to the slowdown are FCC-influenced uncertainty on food companies' spending and hesitation by major toy stores, particularly Toys R Us, which is considering selling its toy stores and hanging onto its Babies R Us chain.
“This could be a long, drawn-out affair,” said Shelly Hirsch, chairman of Summit Media Group, the media-buying division of 4Kids Entertainment. “We're at the dance with the boys on one side of the auditorium, the girls on the other side and Officer Krupke in the middle hoping to get them together, but nothing's happened yet.”
Kids-upfront spending has evolved within the past two years from being a concentrated week of late nights of locking in deals to more complicated packaging and licensing agreements made throughout the year.